Archive | September, 2011

Porn debate moves to ABC religion/ethics; end of Catalonian bull fights; go the f***k to sleep

26 Sep

And while we’re on the subject, for some reason articles on pornography seem to have been removed to the Religion and Ethics section of ABC’s The Drum from the main Drum Opinion pages, where they always drew a great deal of very varied commentary. My  first article there, Pornify This, resulted in some 472 comments before the thread was closed.

Why the ABC no longer appears to consider the pornography debate a mainstream issue is a mystery. Apparently it only concerns those who come to it from a religious and ethical perspective, and those are the terms in which the debate has now been framed on the public broadcaster.

Pornography is a mainstream issue, as those who rail against it are forever reminding us. It’s everywhere we look, they claim, from Bill Henson’s photographs, to women’s magazines, to outdoor advertising, to the cosmetic industry, to fashion houses, to Barbie dolls. So how come the ABC has marginalized the topic to Religion and Ethics?

On the positive side, at least the extremists aren’t getting the coverage they used to enjoy when their articles were front page. That’s not all good, though, because the debates their convictions inspired were lively and full of engaged energy, ample proof, I would have thought, that the topic is of great interest to a lot of people.

Three years ago in a Barcelona square on a hot July afternoon, I signed a petition to end bullfighting in Catalonia. I’d just given a conference paper titled: The Experience of Being Injured: an Otherwise Perspective at the Myth, History, and Memory Conference at Barcelona University.  Today, bullfighting is finally ended, in Catalonia at least.

This is just a small example of how anybody can help make a change, even at the other side of the world.

I’m away for the next few days attending the birth of a grandchild, up there on the list of my life’s very bestest experiences. Seeing my children with their children almost makes motherhood worthwhile.

I’m taking Mr Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck with me in the form of cereal bowls and cups, as well as Go the F**ck to Sleep, made (in)famous by Noni Hazlehurst‘s reading here on YouTube, a gift for the first-time parents who have told me a million times that the baby isn’t going to make any difference to their routines. A wise woman, I say nothing.

See you in a few days.

Clive Hamilton needs a lesson in ethics and manners.

26 Sep

In June this year Hugh Hefner opened a new Playboy Club in London. When asked about the feminist demonstrators outside, Hefner said: “Playboy and the Playboy Clubs were the end of sexism.”

The sad thing about this statement is that Hefner probably believes it. Hefner is at one with those postmodern radicals who believe girls are empowered through the exploitation of their sexuality and that participating in the making and consuming of porn is a valid part of that. Clive Hamilton.

These are the opening paragraphs of ethicist Clive Hamilton’s essay “Rescuing sex from porn,” published in ABC Drum’s Religion and Ethics section last week.

The sad thing about Hamilton’s statements is that he apparently really believes anyone who disagrees with his understanding and definition of pornography and female sexual empowerment is automatically Hugh Hefner’s best buddy. In making sweeping (and many may feel insulting) assumptions such as that one, Hamilton signals his intention to frame the debate as a “George Bush: you’re with us or against us” battle between the forces of good (Hamilton and his buddies Gail Dines, Melinda Tankard Reist, Abigail Bray, et al) and evil (Hugh Hefner and everybody on the planet who disagrees with Hamilton and his buddies, even if we aren’t wild about Hefner either.)

Anyone who believes girls are “empowered” through what Hamilton considers “exploitation of their sexuality” is a “postmodern radical,” whatever that might be, clearly nothing good as far as Clive is concerned, and someone too ignorant to know there’s a difference between empowerment and exploitation to boot.

The “postmodern radical” also believes that the production and consumption of porn is a valid  part of female sexual empowerment. Really?

How does Clive get himself to these conclusions? Oh, silly me, it’s not difficult when all “postmodern radicals” share the same sensibilities as Hugh Hefner.

So, let me get this straight. A postmodern radical is someone who thinks that Playboy was the end of sexism?

A postmodern radical is someone who can’t tell the difference between empowerment and exploitation?

A postmodern radical confuses sex with pornography and needs Clive, MTR, Gail and Abigail to rescue him or her from that cesspool of confusion and filth?

A postmodern radical is a really, really bad thing to be?

If you don’t agree with Clive Hamilton you’re a postmodern radical and therefore probably really, really bad?

Excuse me while I get some air, I’m totally overcome by the ethical elegance of Hamilton’s arguments.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m getting seriously irritated by  Hamilton’s codswallop disguised as ethics. I’d like to know what exactly is ethical about stereotyping other human beings because they disagree with you? I’d like to know what is ethical about reductionism?

I’d like to know  what is ethical about an argument that lumps every dissenter in with every other dissenter and concedes no variation in their dissent, rather condemns the whole lot solely because it does not accord with your point of view?

Sweeping generalizations are the hallmark of many anti porn arguments, and their fatal weakness. Sweeping generalizations are intellectually lazy, and dehumanizing. They are the antithesis of ethical debate.

There are many decent, ethical, and generous people who have profound concerns about certain types of pornography and its possible effects, and many people who have serious concerns about the treatment and well-being of actors who participate in its production. It is disgraceful that Clive Hamilton should contemptuously dismiss such people because they may disagree with him on the definitions and understandings of pornography put forward by him and his fellow activists.

Nobody owns the rights to moral and ethical concerns about the production, consumption and effects of pornography. Mr Hamilton and his fellow activists do not determine for the rest of us what those concerns are or should be by high handedly assuming an imaginary right to legitimize and validate them, according to their own beliefs and values.

If Mr Hamilton and his fellow activists are to continue to complain about being described as “anti-sex wowsers” perhaps they need  to consider that their own acts of reductionist stereotyping are equally alienating, and serve equally little purpose.

If the attitude of anti porn activists continues to be one of “you’re with us or against us” they will achieve nothing lasting. Nobody will listen to them, except those who are already in agreement. They need to remind themselves that they are merely a part of society, not the whole, and that there is a wide range of opinion on this topic from people equally, and sometimes more, intelligent and informed as themselves.

That’s if they want to be ethical.

And if they don’t, then where do they get off, bagging Hugh Hefner?

No clean feed. Try education instead

25 Sep

Steven Conroy’s determination to press on with his plans for an internet filter early next year is ostensibly founded on his desire to “think of the children.” To what degree that emotive appeal is a cover for more sinister intent such as total government control of the internet in Australia is difficult to discern, but it doesn’t pay to assume that what you see is what you get with politicians. It’s in their nature to be duplicitous and power-hungry. I’m not a fan of the slippery slope fallacy but give governments an inch and they take a mile when it comes to curtailing personal freedoms and an internet filter “to protect the children” can only be the thin edge of the wedge.

Moving on, after getting the clichés out of my system:

The very fact that Conroy remains committed to his filter indicates a much broader intent than the protection of children. ISPs already voluntarily block child pornography sites for example, and there’s considerable debate as to whether or not a filter would add anything to those measures already in place. What it will do is block an unknown number of sites of an unknown type, because Conroy’s List of Undesirable  Websites is secret. As Leslie Cannold points out here, the list of to-be-banned sites is banned from public scrutiny, and this in itself should ring the alarm bells.

I have a great deal of sympathy for parents raising children in the digital age. The challenges they face are more numerous and complex than ever before in terms of the types of material  kids can access on the Internet, and the undesirability of much of that content.

However. Governments should not be attempting to control kids’ viewing habits by preventing site access to the entire population. Governments should be supporting parents by developing and supplying low-cost software parents can use to control what their kids see on the home computer. They should be educating parents and children, starting with some decent sex education in schools.

The bottom line is, as always, that parents are responsible for what their children get to see. Clever kids will find their way round parental controls, that’s a given. So keep the computer in a public area, monitor use, heck, it’s not rocket science and we all had to learn it for television.

Personally, I’m squeamish about the existence of violent sexual content on the net. It’s not something I can watch. The thought of young kids learning about sexuality from such images is distressing to me. I’d like it if that wasn’t a risk we had to take.

But the risks of government censorship are greater, IMO, particularly a government such as this one that refuses to disclose what it intends to censor in the first place. The government certainly has a role to play in the protection of children and support of their parents, and it isn’t censorship. If they can fund a very dodgy chaplaincy program in schools, why can’t they fund some serious sex education, and protective software?

As I’ve said many times before, as a society we need to be teaching our young to value themselves and others. Conroy’s filter won’t achieve any of that. Conroy’s filter is all about government control, not government contribution to the well-being of children. We need a paradigm shift on this issue to one in which children really are the central concern and are not cynically employed by those with vested interests to further their own controlling concerns, be they political power, religious tyranny, or moral dictatorship.

Hockey’s contempt; lavartus prodeo nights redux

23 Sep

In his rush to denigrate Treasurer Wayne Swan‘s award from Euromoney Magazine as Treasurer of the Year, Joe Hockey managed to deliver both ethnic slurs and sexist insults.

Listing several countries whose treasurers have previously won the accolade, Hockey contemptuously inferred the utter lack of value he attaches to it, apparently based solely on previous recipients. These include two Slovakian ministers, a Serbian, a Nigerian and a Bulgarian. In 2001 a Pakistani finance minister received the accolade. “That is quite an extraordinary one, that [last] one,” Joe told us, rolling his eyes for the cameras.

He then gave the email address of the magazine as “chunts@euromoney.com” How tragically unreconstructed it is that a seasoned MP can do no better than to use female genitalia in a pathetic effort to convey contempt and insult. It does tell us where his head’s at, in case we were in any doubt. He doesn’t think much of women and select ethnicities.

Hockey did manage to redirect some of yesterday’s press attention towards himself, albeit in largely negative commentary.  But like attracts like, and given the coalition’s commitment to unrelenting negativity as a legitimate form of opposition, it’s inevitable that some of it’s going to come right back at them.

Interesting how racism and sexism are apparently Hockey’s default position.

Last night I noticed a bit of traffic from the Lavartus Prodeo blog to No Place for Sheep. I was curious, as since I wrote this post here  earlier this year on my brief encounter with some of the charmers over there, we’ve had nothing to do with one another. I once read something by Mark Bahnisch that I thought was pretty good and I meant to leave a comment, but forgot.

Seven months ago it was to be exact when I withdrew my love, I was informed bitterly when I trotted over there last night to find out the reason for the sudden link. They’re keeping track of the months, I marvelled. They’re still quoting the things I said? They’re still calling me “Dr?”

Turns out there’s a climate change dispute happening there, someone attacked what they perceived as regular commenters’ defensive insularity, and was brusquely referred to my piece for his trouble. The matchmaking Mercurio suggested to Norm that he’d have a lot in common with this “lady” called Jennifer, and linked us.

Well, of course I had to thank them for their ongoing interest in me, which led to a brief spray from a few of the regulars, pretty much in the same vein as it was seven months ago, but not as clever.

Seven months is a long time in the blogosphere. Most posts are lucky to hold anybody’s interest for seven seconds. I’m astonished to discover that they still think about me at LP after all this time, let alone send me visitors.

Dr Bahnisch did invite me back to his blog, and said some of them really wanted me to join in. But I’m a bit squeamish about the stratospheric levels of hostility over there, especially that directed at newcomers who don’t always agree with them. The competition to write the most articulate insult seems to frequently overwhelm the matter under discussion. Just like Gillard and Abbott, all topics become an opportunity for the performance of clever spite. After a while, it’s utterly boring to everyone other than the protagonists, and who needs to wade through all that negativity in search of a robust exchange of views?

It’s interesting, however, to see that there are still people complaining about LP’s defensive insularity, and it wasn’t just a product of my fevered imagination and pain killers.

Woman up, Ms Gillard!

20 Sep

 

We shall not be moved

As soon as she took office, Julia Gillard signalled that she intended to take a hard line on the off shore processing of asylum seekers who arrive here by boat. The new Prime Minister announced a processing centre (sounds a bit like a fish canning enterprise) in East Timor without, it subsequently emerged, first having properly consulted with that country as to its willingness to partner with Australia in the venture.

As we know, the East Timor proposition came to nought, and served to position the new Prime Minister as a woman who perhaps spoke too soon, and incautiously. This cast early doubt on her capacity for tough. She’s had to work hard to dispel this initial doubt because everyone knows a woman who seeks high political office has to be twice as tough, twice as hard and twice as mean as any man. Unless she wants stay on the backbench for her entire career and be of no interest to anyone other than her electorate.

The Malaysian “solution” has also thus far come to nought, not because that country declined to co-operate with Gillard’s tough plans to expel boat arrivals including unaccompanied children, a new benchmark in tough that left me gob smacked and tearful, how female of me, but because the High Court of Australia found the current Migration Act incompatible with the government’s tough policy. In a

After having petulantly (unwise choice, petulance erodes tough) attacked the full bench as activist judges who were missing an opportunity to stop the boats (an ignorant response from a lawyer: as if it is the High Court’s job to stop the boats) Gillard has now proposed amendments to the Act that will grant an immigration minister unfettered control over the expulsion of asylum seekers to any country he or she decides is suitable, should he or she deem that to be in the national interest. The amendment will ensure there can be no further legal challenges to such a ministerial declaration.

Never underestimate the power of a woman.

Theoretically, this amendment could lead to asylum seekers being refouled, that is sent back to the countries from which they have fled. The UN Refugee Convention proscribes this course of action. The Convention does allow us to relocate asylum seekers to a third country for assessment, however that third country ideally would also be a signatory, and certainly would offer protection of asylum seekers’ human rights, including non refoulement.

We have now strayed so far from the Convention that the only reasons for us to continue as signatories are that we would look like very bad (if tough) international citizens if we withdrew, and withdrawal would undoubtedly put the kybosh on our aspirations to a seat on the UN Security Council. So we will maintain our status as signatories, whilst abandoning pretence to anything other than minimal observance of the Convention. Amending the Migration Act will legitimise our hypocrisy. Not only has a woman proved she is better at tough than the men, she’s also surpassed them in the hypocrisy stakes.

Qué viva liberación de la mujer!

I just love how that sounds in Spanish.

I am woman hear me roar

The fact that Gillard chose to announce her East Timor “solution” hours after taking office indicates that she was determined to position herself from the start as a woman who is capable of great tough, especially on asylum seekers, that hapless and motley collection of human vulnerability who, one could be forgiven for concluding, exist primarily for Australian politicians to use as a yardstick for their implacability capability. Tough implacability apparently being the sole measure of strength in this brutalized country’s brutalized politics, formerly epitomized by Liberals John Howard, Philip Ruddock, Peter Reith, Alexander Downer, et al.

In a bold and successful tilt at gender equality, Gillard has now proved beyond question that a woman can be much better at tough than a man. We have the extraordinary vision of Abbott refusing to co-operate with Gillard’s proposed amendment on the grounds that it strips asylum seekers of all human rights protections, including those written into the Act by his predecessor John Howard who we thought was tough at the time, but who now looks like a little bitty pussycat.

In other words, Abbott has voluntarily relinquished his inherited title of sovereign head of the continent of Tough to Gillard, because worrying about asylum seekers’ human rights is so not tough that he might find he’s stranded himself off shore in the very leaky boat of mercurial public opinion. It could viciously turn, public opinion could, and drive Tony, soon to be despised as a bleeding heart if he’s not careful, past the shores of need to the reefs of greed, through the squalls of hate.* Who knows where he might make landfall? Maybe Malaysia.

Who would ever have thought it?

Gillard’s off shore processing stance was adopted in response to focus groups who want rid of boat arrivals like a good householder wants rid of rats and cockroaches, having learned from Pauline Hanson and John Howard that asylum seekers are a threat to the very fabric of the Australian way of life, and quite likely terrorists to boot. Focus groups aren’t going to put their weight behind any politician who can’t show them some tough, and kick the bastard refugees out as soon as they disembark from their bastard cobbled-together boats. If they sink and die it serves the importunate bastards right, is pretty much the attitude of focus groups the government consults.

The people of the focus groups found their natural leader in Gillard. She, like Pauline Hanson, validated them and gave them a voice. You aren’t racists, she told them. If you worry about border security and our nation’s sovereignty you are not racists, and their hearts swelled with gratitude at this Prime Ministerial liberation from the burdensome slur of bogan racism laid upon them by middle class tosser academics, soy milk latte sipping left wing inner city über cool arty farty wankers, and maybe that nerdy egg head Kevin Rudd as well, even if he did try to hide it. Julia speaks their language, she has the right accent; she makes it OK to hate boat arrivals and call it border protection, and she’s tough. What more could a focus group want?

 A victory for women

Julia Gillard is unquestionably the mistress of the politics of tough, and the blokes she’s bulldozed in her single-minded pursuit of the title can only lie trashed and spent in the gutter, marvelling at her prodigious talent.  In the patriarchal culture of hegemonic masculinity Gillard has proved herself to be more skilled and adept than any bloke. Suck it up, chaps. You should have tried harder to keep us pregnant and barefoot.

Julia is a role model for our female young, demonstrating how a woman can indeed be harder, more mean, and infinitely more tough than a man by honing her skills on powerless asylum seekers. There’s no issue in Australian politics that comes anywhere near providing the same opportunities for the performance of tough. Climate change you might protest, but that doesn’t yet have the human element essential to modelling first class tough. Derogatory remarks about the legitimacy of a photograph of one polar bear looking desperate on a melting ice floe can’t compare with the opportunity to send unaccompanied minors to a country where they might get caned, just for being in it.

Here’s the rub

However. Here’s the rub. If it was your desire to see a change in the monotonous political culture of “how thoroughly can I trash somebody to show how tough hard and mean I am,” if it was your hope that women might introduce an alternative to the tough, hard and mean meme that can only ever be maintained at the expense of others because it is founded on being tough hard and mean to somebody, you’re likely to be feeling a bit disillusioned.

If women in high political office are going to be the same as men and worse, why do we want them there, you might be asking? Why do we need anymore mean tough and hard politicians, and especially why do we need women politicians who think they have to up the stakes and be even meaner, tougher and harder than the men?

Why do we value and reward the mean, the tough and the hard in politics above all other characteristics in the first place, whether they manifest in a man or a woman?

Julia Gillard is living proof that the qualities required for political office in Australia are un-gendered. She is the living proof that women can do anything a man can do and more, in that world. She’s living proof that women are capable of the same oppressive and repressive patriarchal attitudes and behaviours that in other contexts feminists have vigorously protested and fought to liberate us from for decades, only to have our first female leader head right back into the brutal bloodied heart of the patriarchy’s savaging body, and prove that not only can we equal them in their dark arts, we can outdo them.

Woman up, Ms Gillard, and stop copying the blokes. It’s not yet too late. Things can’t get much worse for you, so if you’re going down, do it in a blaze of female glory by being tough enough to change your mind, because very soon Tony Abbott’s going to start looking better at pretending to be humane than you are, and that’s just going to mess with everybody’s heads, possibly terminally. Then you’ll find yourself and your party cast into the wilderness for a good few decades, while the rest of us have to find ways of staying alive under a coalition government led by a failed seminarian who likes going round mostly naked, and has a bad and unreconstructed attitude to women.

From one woman to another this heartfelt plea: have mercy, Julia. Have mercy.

*Leonard Cohen, Democracy.

Fighting to be mother of the nation

18 Sep

A grim mum and dad on the way to Family Court

When we hear Tony Abbott fighting to protect the human rights of asylum seekers against Julia Gillard‘s implacable determination to traduce them, we know we’ve entered a twilight zone in which we may remain trapped for quite some time.

The  battle for political control lurches from one abusive and accusatory encounter to the next, between she who would be mother of the nation, and he who would be our dad. Like children caught in an acrimonious parental break-up, we are forced to listen to the protagonists defile and mock each other with no regard for the confusion and insecurity they are sowing in our hearts and minds.

As if that isn’t enough, they are hell-bent on turning the ingrained gender expectations on which we build our lives inside out, as dad fights to be more caring about people than mum, when everybody knows it’s supposed to be the other way around.

Driven by ego and their unrelenting determination to pulverize one another, they have made the fate of a handful of asylum seekers their theatre of war, and we, along with asylum seekers, are collateral damage in their fight to the death to take the lowest moral ground and on it plant their victory flag.

Frightened and disbelieving, we watch as concern for the less fortunate manifests across our previously hard-as-nails dad’s visage. Mum’s face daily becomes more grim, her lips closed tight in a forced smile as she digs in deep, while dad berates her for her cruelty. If she’ll send unaccompanied children to Malaysia what might she do to us?

But can we trust this newly compassionate dad, dare we consign our future to his hands? So many times he’s dropped us on our heads! So many times he’s failed to feed us and left us sitting in our own excrement while he selfishly attended to the well-being of his body, on his bike and on the beaches!

Neglected as the fur flies, we struggle to understand our mother’s betrayal. Our uncle Bob is of little help, he’s got nothing good to say about either mum or dad, and seems to have cast us to our fate. All the rest of our aunts and uncles and cousins in Canberra have chosen to keep silent, in the way families frequently decide to keep out of the matrimonial upheavals of their members. Like police called to a domestic, they know any interference will likely see them end up with bloodied noses, if not blamed for the problems in the first place.

All this discretion is well and good, but what about the children!

Aunt Janelle came out and called for on shore processing, but her lone voice was immediately  drowned out and only reported in a regional newspaper. It was then that it dawned on us that this battle is not really about asylum seekers. It’s all about mum and dad. It’s about who gets to be the boss of us. It’s about who can hold out the longest. It’s about whose will triumphs, the female or the male. It’s about dad being pissed off that mum got a better paid job than he did. It’s about mum fighting him to make sure she keeps it. Asylum seekers are the cover story. Dad doesn’t give any more of a toss about their human rights than mum. He’s faking it. She’s also faking just about everything, except her determination to break him and grind him into the ground with her high-heeled boots.

That’s the real mum she promised to show us and never has, not even in the Women’s Weekly where every mum is supposed to be real.

How can we stand this much reality and hold onto our sanity?

As in the worst of marital breakups, this one will be fought until there’s nothing left to fight over, until the participants are left shredded and bleeding out, all assets gone to pay the lawyers, the children in therapy, the dog forgotten and starving, extended families torn asunder, forced into warring tribal groups who turn their backs on one another at weddings and christenings, and boycott each other’s funerals.

Stock up on food and water. Get in plenty of candles. We’re in this for the long haul and we’re going to have to stand on our own two feet because the adults have left the building. Who knows what the outcome will be?

Don’t bully my girlfriend, pleads Tim

16 Sep

Tim Mathieson has pleaded with critics to stop bullying Julia because she’s a woman.

He says he can’t understand why some of her most harsh critics are women. You could have a gander at this Tim, it might give you a few clues.

Its been said to me a few times over the last few days that women in politics need to be harder, and meaner, and more brutal than men if they’re going to be accepted. Well, all I can say is who needs anybody more mean, hard and brutal than many men in politics are already? If women have to get more cruel to make the cut, what’s the point of them being there at all? And Gillard has certainly outdone any male politician in recent history with her policies on asylum seekers.

How bizarre, to call victimization for Ms Gillard, the woman who’s determined to send unaccompanied children to Malaysia!

Who’s the bully? Tell me again?

Related articles

%d bloggers like this: